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Sleep Schedule

  1. Feb 18, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I'm a junior in high school and, with an enormous workload, I don't have much time to sleep. I typically get 4-6 hours except on weekends and snow days, when I usually sleep 11-12 hours. I know that many of you have had similar experiences, whether in high school, college, grad school, or all three. What advice can you give me?

    By the way, I seriously considered various forms of polyphasic sleep, but none that I have seen will be able to fit in with my rigid schedule. Also, I'm addicted to caffeine, in case that affects your response in any way.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2014 #2


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    What I did was as soon as I got home from school, I went straight to bed and took a nap, helped greatly. I don't think I could have managed without the naps. Caffeine has no effect on me. If it effects your sleep, stop using it.
  4. Feb 18, 2014 #3
    1. You're in high school, so class starts at, what 7:30-8 am. How far away do you live? I don't see much reason for you to be getting up before 6:30.

    2. That means that for 7 hours (you shouldn't need more than that at your age if you catch up on the weekends) you need to be asleep by around 11:30 pm. Figure 30 minutes for actually falling asleep, and you should be in bed by 11 pm.

    Are you saying that you have so much work that from ~3 pm to 11 pm (8 hours) you can't get all your work done?
    Are you having trouble with school work, or is there just a lot of it?
    Have you spoken with other students in your classes who receive similar amounts of work? How long does it take them?
    How many extra-curricular activities are you trying to cram in?
  5. Feb 18, 2014 #4

    School is 30 minutes away and starts at 8:00, so I wake up at around 6:35 and leave at around 7:10-20. I almost always go to bed after 12.

    I just have a lot of stuff to do (to answer the final question, I have a lot of extra-curriculars). Also, when I can, I try to keep myself sane by doing stuff I enjoy, like reading. Also, I get home at 4:00 at the earliest, and on a few days of the week I get back at around 6:00-7:00.

    By the way, this is pretty standard for people who are serious about schoolwork in the modern era
  6. Feb 18, 2014 #5


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    After you take a nap for a couple of hours after school (I got home shortly after 3pm), I didn't take a bus, I'd get up and if I had any homework left (I usually finished all homework at school) then I'd finish that, take it to school and stuff it inside my desk and never turn it in. Long story...it will get their attention when they find all of your homework for the year stuffed inside your desk. This will not normally turn out well for you, so I don't recommend it.
  7. Feb 18, 2014 #6


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    Based on what you described I am afraid meth is your only hope.
  8. Feb 18, 2014 #7


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    Lots of extracurriculars don't make up for a mediocre GPA, IMO.
  9. Feb 18, 2014 #8
    Exactly, that's why I stay up late doing homework haha
  10. Feb 18, 2014 #9


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    But it's not sustainable. Of course, you know that. And as your classes get harder, it *will* become an issue. Getting enough sleep is required for learning (and for general health), and there's a substantial amount of research that shows that.

    Are you sure you can't drop an activity?
  11. Feb 18, 2014 #10
    Yeah, I know. That's why I'm trying to find some way to hack sleep. Like I said, this is pretty standard. Nearly everyone in my friend group, which essentially consists of the non-partying, not-completely-quirky hard workers, has a situation comparable to mine.
  12. Feb 18, 2014 #11


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    I know, I think "you kids" these days are really amazing. Jeez, if I had half your drive when I was your age!

    I'm not a sleep expert, but I really don't think you can hack sleep - it's like trying to fight the tide. Believe me, if it was possible, it would have been done already.

    And I know this will probably fall on deaf ears but...back off on the caffeine. At least in the late hours of the day.
  13. Feb 18, 2014 #12
    I don't think many people will be able to relate but here's my post anyways.

    I was always a procrastinator. By high school senior years, I received only 1-3 hours of sleep on a frequent basis. My study habits were very terrible. I would come back home at 3:30 PM and I would try to force myself to start and for some reason I couldn't start until 7:00 PM. It kept getting worse - while I previously was able to start at 7:00 PM, soon I could only start until 8:00 PM, 10:00 PM, midnight, 1:00 AM, 3:00 AM, 4:00 AM. I would frequently take Tylenols to stop the massive headaches. I sometimes considered suicide by overdosing on those pills. In hindsight, I am so happy that I didn't kill myself and looking back at it, I can't believe I was so irrational. I actually asked for help here but the moderators were no help (they closed my thread and redirected me to a suicide hotline but there was a reason why I was avoiding the hotline... it wasn't their fault though as this is a physics forum and I'm a random Internet stranger).

    Lots of people will tell you that procrastination is normal. Do not listen to them. It might be natural for humans to procrastinate but do not mistakenly think that because procrastination might be considered natural or normal that it is healthy. If there is one thing I regret is that I wish I recognized that I have a serious issue earlier in time. It always seemed like my colleagues were in the same boat as me. It always seemed like my peers were procrastinating just like me and that prevented me from taking steps to alleviate my procrastination.

    Anyways, it has been a couple of years since I've graduated and I'm currently taking double the workload I had in high school. I have almost no problem managing the load. For 6 days a week, I start at 9:00 AM and finish at 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM. It feels so relieving to be able to finish in the afternoon and to have the rest of your day to do whatever you want. Here is the book I used: http://www.amazon.ca/How-Become-Straight-A-Student-Unconventional/dp/0767922719 You're probably skeptical and I actually don't mind at all if you don't take this advice. In fact, if your issue isn't severe, then it's probably best that you ignore this post. However, if you are ever into a situation like I was, where you are considering suicide, then in addition to getting mental help, I seriously recommend you consider this book because it turned my life around.

    EDIT: I just realized that you never said that you had a problem with procrastination. I'm an idiot to assume you did.

    EDIT2: You're a junior in high school and you're doing Laplace transforms already. Now I'm almost positive that my advice doesn't apply to you.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  14. Feb 18, 2014 #13


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    I would post the 10 minute video of the WWII, concentration camp, sleep study, I watched this last weekend, where the human "subjects" died. But I had to turn it off after the first 2 minutes.
  15. Feb 18, 2014 #14
    ainster, you actually have hit something that I've never really considered seriously- I do procrastinate a decent amount (although never until 4 in the morning). And by the way, my experience with differential equations doesn't imply that I don't procrastinate- if anything, doing differential equations/quantum mechanics/etc allows me to procrastinate even more!

    Also, sleep deprivation has never been such an issue for me that I was faced with depression/suicidal thoughts, so don't worry about that.
  16. Feb 18, 2014 #15


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    I still stand by my earlier advice, but if sleep deprivation is getting to be a nuisance, then you can always drop some ECs or at least dial your participation down. It will likely have nearly zero impact on your college admissions. Unless the application process has changed significantly in the past couple years, it just asks you to list your ECs and write something like a one sentence summary about each of them. Your essays, GPA, recommendations, etc are much more important. So unless your ECs are truly fantastic their impact will be minimal.
  17. Feb 19, 2014 #16
    I can't simply "dial down" participation, though. To be on the math team, you need to go to the meets. Same thing for the science team. Same thing for the ski team. Same thing for my weekly teaching thing, etc, etc, etc. However, it really isn't the EC's that are the problem. It's more so my large workload.

    OK folks, it's 1:01 over here and I'm gonna hit the hay. Adios.
  18. Feb 19, 2014 #17


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    The bottom line is, there are 168 hours in a week and you can't change that fact.

    If you need more than 168 hours for your preferred lifestyle, you have two basic options:

    1. Let your lifestyle take control of you, and it will then change itself to get into some stable state - but probably not in a good way.
    2. Take control of our lifestyle yourself, and dump the activities that have least value.

    Warning: if you are sleeping 12 hours on two days a week (at weekends), you are already headed for option 1 IMO.
  19. Feb 19, 2014 #18


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    Then drop an EC.

    The problem sounds like there are not enough hours for ECs and school work combined. So you can either become super efficient and cut down the time needed for school work or you can reduce the number of hours needed for ECs. As I mentioned earlier, the ECs will not make a lick of difference regarding college admissions at this point, so dropping one is not going to hurt.
  20. Feb 19, 2014 #19
    I don't have any "activities of least value." They're all important to me.

    Also, I would only say my that my lifestyle has taken control of me to the extent that it determines the amount of free time that I have/amount of sleep I get. However, that's true for any lifestyle, isn't it? I haven't burnt out yet, and I'm not planning on doing so any time soon.
  21. Feb 19, 2014 #20
    You need to learn better time management. If you want to put 50 boxes of cereal in your cart, but the cart only holds 40 boxes, then you either have to get a bigger cart or buy less cereal. Since you cannot get any more hours in the day, your choices are:
    1) Sleep Less (thus increasing the number of usable hours in the day; getting a bigger cart)
    2) Drop Activities (thus decreasing the workload; buying less cereal)
    3) Get more efficient at existing tasks (squishing the boxes to fit more in; remember, boxes only squish so much)

    Option 3 is tough and takes time and, depending on your workload and the time allotted for tasks that actually can be completed faster with practice (homework, chores, etc) it's likely to make the least difference.

    Option 1 is not sustainable forever. Nobody plans on burning out, but you will at some point. Maybe not now during high school, but at some point. You need to learn how to manage your time properly or you will eventually find yourself in a position where you are overextended and underslept.

    People need sleep. Especially young adults who are taking on challenging academic portfolios. It's fine to miss out on some sleep here and there throughout the week if you make it up on the weekend; if you are working hard, it's inevitable. If you can manage at least 6 hours on weeknights you'll be ok for a while, but 4 just isn't healthy or sustainable. Either make sleep a task as important as any other on your schedule, or drop something off of it.

    There is no way to hack sleep.
  22. Feb 19, 2014 #21


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    No one plans on burning out.

    Sleep corrrelates with academic performance:

    I suspect you already know that, which is why you want to improve your sleep.

    As others have suggested, it's important to look at your schedule to make sure that you're getting enough quantity. But here are a few other ideas that might help.

    1. Make sure you're taking care of yourself in general. Eat well. Avoid foods that make you lethargic during the day - lots of vegetables and fruit.

    2. Regular exercise.

    3. Limit caffeine, particularly in the later hours of the day.

    4. Routine. Routine. Routine. As much as possible, try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

    5. Before bed plan your next day - write it out if you have to. Writing out what you have to do will keep you from worrying about committments while you're trying to sleep.

    6. Read a little before bed - something light and for fun or interest. This keeps your mind from drifting to worries.
  23. Feb 19, 2014 #22


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    Other people have given good positive advice (which you don't seem to be interested in), so I'll stick with being brutal: none of your current activities have any importance to you whatever, compared with "staying healthy" - both physically and mentally. You do that by long-term sleep deprivation.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2014
  24. Feb 19, 2014 #23
    Of course I'm interested in hearing what everyone has to say. I started this thread because I knew that there would be a number of people who were faced with similar scenarios and now have advice.

    Anyhow, it looks like I'm going to be going for 100% efficiency for the next few years.
  25. Feb 20, 2014 #24


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    There are smartphone apps that you can use to monitor your sleep, such as sleepcycle.

    It will give you insight in the quality of sleep and you could experiment with certain routines to see what works for you. For example, testing the effect of not taking caffeine late in the day, reading before sleeping. If you wake up in the middle of the night to take a bathroom break, try to limit your fluid intake a few hours before sleeping. Increasing quality of sleep could help you, do try to get sufficient hours though.
  26. Feb 20, 2014 #25

    Great idea, I'll try that
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